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Chicago unveiled a $26 million overhaul of O’Hare Airport‘s international terminal on Friday, showing off two dozen new high-end dining and shopping options.
It’s the first redevelopment since Terminal 5’s construction in 1993 and features sleek interior design upgrades that give parts of the terminal the feel of a comfy lounge or trendy nightclub.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday that the redesign, which includes local brands, does a better job of representing Chicago to those who pass through the airport, the second busiest in the country.
“Terminal 5 reflects our city’s distinct style and spirit, placing Chicago at the center of the global tourism conversation,” Emanuel said.
Among new offerings are a spa, a local gourmet deli called The Goddess & Grocer and a restaurant overseen by celebrity chef Rick Bayless. Coming soon are an Emporio Armani and a Michael Kors shop.
Airports around the country are in competition over such amenities in hopes of attracting passengers, especially those in transit who can be tempted to spend money while on a layover.
At O’Hare, the need was especially acute. Even Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino has called the old Terminal 5 an embarrassment.
It was designed with grand spaces, but after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, some of those areas were filled with expanded security checkpoints, leaving passengers with few options for eating and shopping once they passed the screening lines.
The renovated interior transformed the food court into a dining lounge with performance kitchens. New design elements include detail touches like wood paneled walls, intricate tile patterns and stylish lighting.
There is also a new 10,000-square-foot duty-free store that will offer luxury brands representing downtown Chicago’s Magnificent Mile shopping district.
Even before its full completion, departing passengers last year spent an average of $18.99 in Terminal 5’s shops and restaurants, the highest it’s ever been.
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